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New proposal for McCall endowment lands submitted: Local group pitches its idea

The Idaho Department of Lands received a new proposal for the endowment land surrounding Payette Lake.

United Payette, or UP, a coalition of local stakeholders, sent a proposal to IDL with a plan to conserve more than 5,000 acres of endowment land around Payette Lake.

This comes just two days after the Idaho Land Board rejected Trident’s request to reconsider the McCall land swap, which BoiseDev told you about here.

“The lands have been the subject of scrutiny as other proposals have sought privatization and development,” the news release said. “Unlike other public lands, the Idaho Constitution requires the Land Board… to maximize returns. Because of rising land values surrounding Payette Lake, the state may be forced to consider selling the lands.”

[Idaho Land Board denies Trident’s request to reconsider McCall land swap application]

Plan for the land

United Payette says its proposal would ‘eliminate that threat’ of selling the lands by providing revenues to back state ownership.

UP worked with the City of McCall, Valley County, and other stakeholders to come up with the proposal that includes; phased solutions to increase endowment revenue, recommendations for parcels in the endowment acreage, conservation solutions with leases and easements to protect habit and water quality, preserve open space, lower wildfire risk, and keep public access for various uses.

It noted that the proposal would have no impact on the state’s current land activity, such as grazing and logging, and would allow future use if it does not conflict with traditional public use.

“The plan was a tremendous amount of work by a diverse team to map out solutions that meet both community needs and secure the maximum long-term financial return to the state’s endowment trusts,” McCall resident and UP steering committee member Jeff Mousseau said.

The plan outlined the group’s concerns in protecting public access, water quality, and wildlife. It said it tried to meet the needs of the Land Board’s constitutional mandate as well as concerns from Valley County and the City of McCall.

Partners

United Payette said it worked with the Idaho Department of Lands to form the plan.

“UP has worked closely with IDL to ensure the plan aligns with the needs of IDL and the Land Board,” the proposal notes. “UP members have participated in numerous meetings with IDL personnel in the local Payette Lakes Supervisory Area office and executives in the organization to get input and ensure our approach and solutions align with the approved PELS document.

UP said it gained various support from council members, commissioners, and more.

“As Idaho’s population grows, so does the increasing threat and pressure to privatize and develop State endowment lands such as those found around the Payette Lake at McCall,” the Shoshone Bannock Tribe wrote. “The Tribes support [UP’s] mission to permanently conserve the State of Idaho’s Payette endowment lands for the public and the health of the ecosystem.”

The proposal also includes letters of support from McCall Mayor Bob Giles and the Valley County commission. Giles referenced earlier letters the city sent to the Idaho Land Board in a letter of support.

“The United Payette approach is consistent with the intent of these letters, and the City of McCall endorses the United Payette coalition approach for these lands,” he wrote.

Specifics

The proposal outlines short-term and long-term ideas for 13 different parcels around the lake, including sites in McCall’s city limits, lakefront parcels, Cougar and Shellworth islands, and the timber-covered hills around the lake.

For many of the sites, United Payette proposes to enter into five-year “conservation-based lease(s).” The idea laid out would run concurrently with other leases on the properties – including preexisting grazing, residential, recreational, mining, and commercial leases, as well as timber harvest use.

“The new lease will be built for the benefit of public access for year-round recreational activities and conservation-based practices as well as limiting development. The new lease will generate additional immediate revenue to the endowment trust,” United Payette wrote.

City of McCall’s State 80 concept

In some cases, the plan calls for lands to be sold or auctioned.

Two large pieces of land on Deinhard Ln. near Idaho 55 sit empty – just a stone’s throw from the Ridley’s Market shopping center.

The proposal calls for IDL to lease or sell the two parcels in alignment with the City of McCall’s “State 80” master plan concept. That idea would bring together mixed-use residential, commercial, and open space/recreation concepts.

For a pair of parcels between Pilgrim Cove and Ponderosa State Park, the UP plan calls for annexation of the land into the City of McCall, and a mix of sales/auction as well as the donation of land to expand Ponderosa through private funding.

“Leases would be placed on the lands of interest to the park, and the disposition lands would move to public auction. IDL should coordinate with the city of McCall to align this residential zoned land with affordable housing needs of the city as well as the potential need for an environmental assessment as an area of critical concern to the city.”

In several areas, United Payette calls for easements or access for expansions to trails as part of the Central Idaho Mountain Bike Association plans – with trails on the east side of the lake, around Pilgrim Cove, and in the northwest quadrant of land near Warren Wagon Rd.

Paying for it

The Idaho Land Board has a constitutional mandate to manage lands in the endowment for the benefit of public schools and other beneficiaries.

United Payette says it hopes to combine a number of funding sources to implement its concepts. To date, the group says it has $100,000 in cash donations in hand, as well as “significant verbal” commitments.

“UP proposes to fund the solutions set forth in the plan using a combination of private funding from individuals and institutions and public funding from federal and state programs and potential city and county supplemental funding,” the plan notes.

United Payette says it hopes to also obtain private dollars.

“A large and currently untapped source of revenue is from the private sector. UP members have established widespread ties throughout the community that make it uniquely positioned to engage with private individuals and organizations to secure funding to implement the solutions and increase revenues to the endowment trust beneficiaries.”

The UP proposal also said Valley County is “currently gauging interest in a levy that could support solutions for public access, open spaces, and recreation across the county.”

Earlier this year, an anonymous postcard sent to some Valley County residents brought pushback from Valley County officials who called it misleading. The county has held exploratory discussions on the concept – but any tax levy would need to win voter approval.

What’s next

UP submitted its application Wednesday. The coalition plans to meet with IDL in the next few weeks to create a lease application for the short-term plans.

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Don Day & Autum Robertson - BoiseDevhttps://boisedev.com/
Don Day is BoiseDev's founder and editor. Autum Robertson is a BoiseDev reporter.

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